How to Learn the Skills You Need for Business
If you’ve been dreaming of being your own boss and starting your own business, you’re in good company! It’s estimated that by 2020, fully 27 million people will leave the traditional workforce to pursue self-employment in America alone.
Whether your passion is jewelry making, door welding, singing, or doula services, there are core fundamentals to getting your business up and running that will ensure you have a strong, solid foundation.
You’re reading this because you have the itch to be your own boss. So in this article, we’ll boil down what you need to know when starting a business—and how to learn it.
Owning a Business Can Be a Challenge
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the logistics, let’s first pause to note that owning a business is one of the most rewarding and difficult endeavors you’ll ever take on.
You’ll be frustrated sometimes because you see people on Instagram posting pics of themselves on perpetual vacation, but you haven’t been able to take one in years. You’ll feel inferior at times because of the Facebook posts about ‘hustle’ and ‘grind’ with some 20-year-old leaning against a Lamborghini. Most of those posts are fake anyways.
The truth of owning a business is that until you grow, you wear every single hat—you’re the owner, marketer, accountant, evangelist, creator, and so forth. And it can be overwhelming at times, there’s no way around that. But if you plan properly, you actually can pause for a vacation every now and then without devastating your finances and without everything being on fire at your company.
So let’s talk about planning and logistics so you can be on your way to success, and then we’ll address where to find answers when you get stuck.
How to Get Started with Your Business Idea
You probably already have an idea of what you want to do.
As an example, let’s say it’s jewelry making. Your very first step (before you ever invest a penny in supplies) is market research.
Market research is easy to miss—you’re likely so excited about putting your passion into the world that you don’t want to be slowed down by research. It’s difficult to be objective because you just want to sell beautiful jewelry, and of course, yours is the most beautiful, and there’s no way anyone will call your baby (your business) ugly!
But take a breath. Basic market research can be done in a matter of a few days or weeks, and is a must before taking any other step if you want to succeed. You should read all about your own market, including what’s hot, where your customers prefer to shop (and who your ideal customers are!), and who your biggest competitors will be.
After understanding the landscape, the next step is to complete a SWOT Analysis (that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). This can be a very rudimentary approach but offers you a good starting point that will provide clarity later.
Now that you have focus, your business idea should be taking shape. But don’t pull the trigger yet—you still need a business plan!
Among other things, your business plan will showcase what type of funding you’ll need (bootstrap, small business loan, venture capital funds), how your finances will flow, which permits and regulations you’ll need to adhere to in your location, and logistics like who (and when) to hire, whether you’ll need a physical or online presence, and so forth.
This is how you think things through and avoid jumping without a parachute. Some people are more comfortable with a lengthy, in-depth business plan, others opt for a concise business plan, others do both—all options are absolutely fine so long as you get all of your ducks in a row.
You can only learn the specific needs of your business if you sit down and plan everything out properly before getting started. And if you’ve already started, pursuing clarity will improve your chances at success.
Where Do You Learn Business Skills?
Let’s say you’ve started your business plan, done your research, and you’re still overwhelmed. Where do you even figure out what skills you need for your business??!?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are some great shortcuts to figuring this out so you don’t have to get lost in Googling around:
- Networking is extremely powerful and you’ll be surprised how generous people are with sharing their successes and failures concisely over a drink at a networking event. Meetup and Eventbrite are currently the largest options for finding industry events, and we recommend attending general business networking events in addition to niche-specific events.
The budding jewelry maker should go to business networking events, fashion industry networking events, and jewelry maker networking events. Arm yourself with two or three questions that aren’t invasive but conversational.
Ex: “I’m considering pivoting into jewelry making, and I know you’re an industry veteran, what do you wish you had known before you started that you know now?”
Pro tip: Try to at least connect with a lawyer and an accountant through networking events so you have a familiar face on speed dial for later. You may not yet have the capacity to have them on retainer, but at least know them!
- Seek out a mentor. It doesn’t have to be Neil Degrasse Tyson just because you’re in a science-related field and hoping to innovate. Use LinkedIn to find someone in your city that is successful in something similar but not competitive with what you’re seeking to do (it can be a stranger).
Message them and briefly note that you’re looking to break into the industry and was hoping to meet for coffee. Remember: A mentor says yes because you are a promising candidate for success and they’re willing to invest their time in that and give back, so don’t just stroke their ego when approaching them, express quickly why you’re worthy.
Ex: “I’m an aspiring abstract painter that hopes to actually turn a profit someday, and I’m hoping to find a mentor that is willing to help me to navigate through some of the things I am not aware that I don’t know. I admire your work greatly, especially your series expressing sound, and I would be honored if we could meet for a coffee to see if we’d be a fit for each other—I’m happy to come to your side of town! Thoughts?”
Study up on being a good mentee, and this relationship could be your key to success!
- You don’t have to sound stupid in public or air out any dirty laundry, but ask on social media what Facebook Groups or LinkedIn Groups people find useful and that are dedicated to your specific needs.
For example, a doula wouldn’t find business support in a group of mothers, but would find support in a Facebook Group filled with doulas discussing their businesses and their best practices.
A UX Designer launching their own consulting company would find more luck in a LinkedIn Group about UX consulting than a Reddit group roasting bad UX designs.
All you have to do is ask around. And if you don’t get answers, start searching. There is a lot of red meat in groups these days.
- Get agency support. If you’re in the US, your taxes already pay for a service you may not be using—the SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration). Their job is to help new businesses launch, grow, and succeed, and they even have consultants that you can meet with regularly, often at no cost. (Other countries have something similar.)
Additionally, there are over 1,000 Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) across America that operate in partnership with the SBA and local universities. You can get free to low-cost consulting and ongoing training through your SBDC.
Tap into the SBA and SBDC services, attend their events, and use them to answer all of your burning questions—they’ve heard them all. And they’re invested in your success, so turn to them immediately, you won’t regret it!
Armed with your market research, SWOT Analysis, business plan, networking groups, online groups, a mentor, and the SBA plus the SBDC, you’ll always have an extremely strong foundation for your business that will allow you to pursue your passion AND turn a profit—imagine that!